writers / writing

#IWSG — Do Writers Read?

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s question – It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don’t enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

To be honest, I’ve never heard any recommend NOT reading as part of writing. In fact, I’m drenched in quotes about “To write is to read”. Here, see what you think:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” — Stephen King

“Writing is reading inside out.” –John Updike

“…write every day… Read intensely. Then see what happens.” — Ray Bradbury

“When I want to read a novel, I write one.” — Benjamin Disraeli

“I’ll read something, maybe the Psalms, maybe, again, something from Mr. Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson. And I’ll remember how beautiful, how pliable the language is, how it will lend itself. If you pull it, it says, ‘Okay.’ I remember that, and I start to write.” — Maya Angelou

“If you want to be a good writer, you have to read, because that’s how you learn about what makes good writing.” — Tommie DePoala

“All writers I know are readers first and foremost…” — Mark Billingham

“Writers read. That’s what they do.” — Anonymous

“Good reading makes for damn hard writing.” — Richard Brinsley Sheridan

“[R]ead a lot, write a lot” is the great commandment.” — Stephen King

“Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.” –Daniel Pinkwater

How about you? I’ll come check out your posts.

More on reading

I Have a Confession: I’m a Whale Reader

A Bunch of Resources for Read Across America Day

More IWSG articles

A Great Place to Write

Does Your Writing Surprise You?

Am I creative?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

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118 thoughts on “#IWSG — Do Writers Read?

  1. I read a lot and I do mean a lot! I think I have good ideas for stories/books but the few times that I’ve shared my work for ‘critique’, I’ve been annihilated. I get discouraged then try again but I’m reluctant to share my work. I keep editing and reediting.

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    • I don’t think there’s a required quantity, though. I think it’s more about understanding the joy of reading that this refers to. And you do. The fact that it’s your relaxation (when there’s time for that sort of thing) makes that point.

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  2. It’s my passion for reading that made me want to write. And I believe that writers should support other writers. We stand on ladders held against the sky by others, and we should be humble and grateful for those willing to support us by showing the way up. I don’t copy other writers, at least certainly not with intent (you’ll have to tell me if I’m mistaken about this, Jacqui.) Most of the writers whose work I truly admire – and there are many, many, many – write much better than I can hope to achieve. I will always be a reader. Hope one day to be published. Such an interesting question, and so many thoughtful answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Totally agree! How can you hope to write without having an appreciation of reading? They are the same process; at the very least writing is a process of rereading what you’ve already written. Great quotes, they give me confidence that I’m doing the right thing by absorbing all the literature I can.

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  4. I read very little, and very slowly: that is, I analyze other writers’ work rather than enjoy it. So no, I don’t read for pleasure – or very rarely, anyway. Why? Rightly or wrongly, I have developed a style that is my own, and ‘taking tone’ from others does not enhance that. Rather, it inhibits. I also believe that language can be shaped and changed; the rules of grammar reorganized once and again to achieve an effect. I think my main quarrel with ‘creative writing’ courses is their reliance upon the work of existing writers, rather than invoking the new. They repress creativity, not enhance it.

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  5. Well the more I read the wider my imagination that inspires me in making stories and poems but sometimes I’m having a hardtime being creative and unique because as far I observed some novels and stories end up having same plot so I sometimes hit the mark about what will be its ending.

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  6. I would take what Tommie DePoala says and turn it on it’s head: You have to read a lot because that shows you what bad writing is. It’s also something they say about leadership, that you can learn as much from bad leaders, maybe more, as with good leaders.

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  7. If one doesn’t read, why write? 🤔 Love of the written word works both ways. Writing and reading enhance each other, so if one isn’t reading, they’re limiting their own writing ability. So much for creativity. 😏😏

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  8. Hey Jacqui,
    Not reading sounds a tad bit lazy. And look what all the author is missing out on. Xhosa for one:)
    I especially loved these: “Writers read. That’s what they do.” — Anonymous
    “Good reading makes for damn hard writing.” — Richard Brinsley Sheridan
    Great post as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great quotes, Jacqui. Honestly, I don’t read to get inspiration for stories, although occasionally a spark does flash into my consciousness. I read to learn how to write (and not write). I notice wonderful passages, exquisite word choices, why a character is fascinating, the power behind an opening scene. Reading with one eye on craft is a great way to become a better writer. 🙂

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  10. I can’t imagine wanting to write if you don’t read. Why bother? We learn so much about LIFE through reading. I teach creative writing classes, and those who don’t read in my class have little imagination. And in fact, they only write stories based on TV characters. Truly, no reading- no good writing.

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  11. If you don’t like reading, what inspires one to write? And if you write, surely there must be an inspiration to read? Reading and writing go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Sorry, but the whole idea eludes me.

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  12. I devoured many books, some well above my age range, before giving writing a shot myself. That foundation was instrumental in becoming a writer. The structure only gets higher the more one reads. Thanks for collecting these quotes! 🙂

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  13. One of the greatest joys in my life was teaching kids to read. To see their eyes light up when they completed the sentence or paragraph or story and to discuss it with the group. Amazing. Too bad so many students lose the joy of reading as they grow older and too bad kids who hate reading don’t have a way to open up the page and use a different method of learning how to read. But I’m off the rails here. Really enjoyed the quotes and your colorful presentation of them on the page.
    JQ Rose

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    • It was as bit of a struggle to get my son to read. I finally told him to pick his books–whatever he wanted, that was fine. He’s read voraciously ever since. In high school, he was the kid who read Thucydides and the Greek philosophers.

      Go figure.

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  14. I agree that reading a lot is vital for writing. I don’t really think that people who don’t like to read would want to write anyway. It is a lot of hard work and unless you make it really bit, you don’t earn that much from it – a bit of a calling really.

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  15. Love the quotes! Stephen King’s is my go-to on the subject. The idea that someone has “original” ideas because s/he doesn’t read is preposterous. And what a loss for them. Reading has enriched my life in ways too numerous to count.

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    • Mine too–the Stephen King quote. I was surprised more writers haven’t said something similar. I struggled to find quotes and most of the rest are from writers I didn’t know. Well, not counting Disraeli, Updike, and Bradbury.

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  16. The whole concept of “I don’t read, so my ideas will be new and original” made ZERO sense to me. If you (general you, obviously) haven’t read, you have no idea whether your ideas are new or original (and I doubt they are anyway, given myths and archetypes).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sheesh, it makes sense to write. I mean, c’mon. We gotta read first to learn our alphabets so we can turn ’em into words and then make stories. Whoever came up with that idea was a pretty cool person. I.B. Nosied to meet ’em, heh heh.

    Great quotes up there, by the way.

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